Cards Minor League Capsules – March 20

St. Louis Cardinals minor league news of note from Jupiter and Vero Beach, Florida on Tuesday, March 20.

My first official day in Spring Training began ominously, as the rain dropped from the sky before 9:00 a.m. and again on the way to Vero Beach and Dodgertown over the noon hour. But the day was not interrupted even one minute despite the heavy downpour underway as I passed through Port St. Lucie. Perhaps it is an omen for the 2007 Mets. We can hope, anyway…

Jose' Ole'

My first notable sight upon arriving on the back fields of the Roger Dean Stadium complex on Tuesday was of the two Quad Cities clubs working out. There was a strangely-familiar sight at second base.

Yep, there was major league third base coach Jose Oquendo working on double plays under the watchful eye of Minor League Field Coordinator Jim Riggleman. Jose's pupils included shortstops Jose Contreras and Jose Martinez.

Despite the big club not having a game for ten hours fifty miles away, the "Secret Weapon" didn't use the occasion to sleep in. Instead, he was sharing his knowledge with the eager minor leaguers, doing what he told me he "always" does in the spring, said with an ear-to-ear grin.

Teaching is what it is all about

This is what Spring Training is all about – teaching. In this photo, Minor League Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins is tutoring pitcher Stuart Pomeranz. Shortly thereafter, Cards bench coach Joe Pettini zoomed up in his golf cart to check out the action.

Norman and Alvarado en Espanol

New Quad Cities hitting coach Nelson Norman was very active with his new charges. Having spent the last three years managing in the Dominican Summer League seem to have been good for both Norman and his new employer, as Norman used his bi-lingual skills on numerous occasions during the workout.

With Norman assigned to Quad Cities, the organization has at least one Spanish-speaking coach at every level from there on down. With the Cards' Latin American pipeline just beginning to flow, this is a wise move.

One of Norman's many discussions this morning was with catcher/third baseman Wilmer Alvarado, whose English is not yet strong. It is the Dominican native's first spring training in the USA. The organization plans to give him every opportunity to succeed behind the plate, since it is considered more of a premium position than third base, where Alvarado is also a competent defender. His bat is not a question.

Current count is that 31 more Latin Americans are expected for extended spring training, which starts in about two weeks.

Springfield 6, Jacksonville 3

The Springfield club defeated their Dodgers counterpart by a 6-3 score on Tuesday at Vero Beach. Mitch Boggs started and went 2 2/3 scoreless innings before reaching his pitch count limit. Brian Stitt came in with a runner in scoring position in the third and got his man.

Jon Jay (left)

Reid Gorecki collected an RBI single, but the most impressive at-bat I saw was by top prospect Colby Rasmus, who blasted a low line drive to right center into the teeth of a strong wind. By the time it landed on the warning track, two runs scored, including the second by the speedy Jon Jay, who hoofed it home all the way from first base on Rasmus' double. Later in the game, Colby stroked a single down the right field line.

Colby Rasmus (left)

Nursing a mild hamstring injury, outfielder Ian Church is expected to return to action at the end of the week.

Mike Lindskog, Mr. Everything for the Springfield club, shared the club's new marketing slogan, "Get Your Red On". Based on both my and Lindskog's reaction to the blazing sun, we're both getting a head start getting our own red on…

Those who stayed around until the ninth were treated to a sight. For me, it was the first time I had seen Chris Perez in action live. The hard-throwing closer did not disappoint, consistently hitting 94-95 MPH on the gun. Perez retired his three batters, including one strikeout to finish out the win.


Chris Perez (left)

Among the watchers of the final inning were the entire Memphis team and staff, as their game, on an adjoining field, finished first. Also audible was Mr. Dodger, Tommy Lasorda, who was barking at the umpires during the inning from his golf cart. It's his duty, Judy!





Memphis 2, Las Vegas 0

Lefty Troy Cate started and did not disappoint, tossing four shutout innings. After his day was done, Cate was showing off a huge bruise that covered the inside of his right leg from under his knee to just above his ankle. It didn't happen during the game – the mishap occurred four days ago while playing catch. It sure didn't affect Cate on the mound, despite how ugly it looked.

Memphis pitching coach Dyar Miller was as upbeat as always. "We'll be good this season – as long as they don't raid us," he laughed in referring to the major league club. Miller quickly added, "But, that is what we're here for, you know!"

Shortstop Brendan Ryan carried the big stick on Tuesday, with a two-run single in the fifth inning off former Cardinal Travis Smith. Ryan was understandably happy with his performance.

"I've been working on my stroke trying to be more consistent. If there is a better hitting coach than Rick Eckstein, I haven't met him yet," Ryan told me after the game. The number of at-bats he received with the big club this spring seems to have added a bit more buoyancy to Ryan's already-positive demeanor. He knows he is as close as ever and if he can stay healthy and hit, his big-league debut may occur in 2007.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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